Monday, 6 December 2010

Remembering Formula 1 champion James Hunt

Two Radio 4 stalwarts James Naughtie and Andrew Marr stumbled over the surname of culture secretary Jeremy Hunt on air this morning re-naming the minister with the rhyming c-word. The boob by these broadcasting veterans seems to have greatly amused rather than outraged the British listening public including Hunt himself.
Its response underlines my post of April 20th regretting the decline of the c-word’s power to shock and that the expletive is headed the same way as the French con which now means no more than idiot.
However, such is the circles to be found in the windmills of GC’s mind that memories of another Hunt have come flooding back.
I don’t remember any commentators tripping up over the name of James Hunt - the English racing driver who won the Formula One World Championship in 1976 – even though his nickname was Hunt the Shunt in recognition of his devil-may-care life-style on and off the circuit.
I met him just once probably around 1973 at a press conference to announce he had signed up for something or another. To this day he remains the most striking man (I’ll tell you about the most impressive women in a future post) I have ever seen up close. It’s easy enough to appreciate his appeal to women – air stewardesses seem to have been a speciality.
The qualities that made him a fearless driver were corrosive away from the track. The years of sex and booze took their toll. Hunt died at the tragically young age of 45. Any film biography of this complicated man will feature his life in the fast lane – Richard Burton put up $1 million to facilitate Hunt’s wife Suzy marrying the actor.
But he eccentricity differentiates him from other self-destructive sportsmen – he could turn up to functions bare foot; he bred parrots in his final years.
While Hunt was the very opposite of a role model, he lit up the 1970s in way that makes todays hell raisers look like pussies.

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